NORAD officials said U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch at 7:49 p.m. EST Tuesday. The missile was tracked in a southerly direction.
NORAD said initial indications were that the first stage of the rocket fell into the Yellow Sea and that the second stage fell into the Philippine Sea.
Quoting a NORAD news release: "Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America."
NORAD is based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
White House: NKorea launch 'highly provocative'
The White House says North Korea's launch of a long-range ballistic missile is a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security."
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor is calling the launch "another example of North Korea's pattern of irresponsible behavior."
In a statement released late Tuesday, Vietor says the U.S. "remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations."
The United Nations, the U.S., South Korea and others see the launch as a cover for a test of technology for missiles that could be used to strike another nation with a nuclear warhead.
Vietor says the U.S. will work with other nations and the U.N Security Council "to pursue appropriate action" against North Korea.
Tokyo protests North Korean rocket launch
Japan's Foreign Ministry says it has registered a "strong protest" with North Korea over its rocket launch.
It said Wednesday that Tokyo also immediately requested consultations on the launch within the U.N. Security Council.
North Korean state broadcaster declares launch success
North Korea's state broadcaster has announced on TV that Pyongyang's rocket launch was a success.
North Koreans watching TV in Pyongyang broke out into applause after the noon (0300GMT) broadcast Wednesday, about two hours after the launch from a west coast station.